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Creator / Woody Allen

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"My brain: it's my second favorite organ."

"To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love; but then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy; therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness — I hope you're getting this down."
Sonja, Love and Death

Heywood "Woody" Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg; December 1, 1935) is an American director, screenwriter, actor, comedian, playwright, story writer, essayist and musician. He was born Allen Stewart Konigsberg to an Ashkenazi Jewish family in New York City. Most of his films are set in New York and feature Jewish or Ambiguously Jewish characters, often with himself or an Author Avatar in the lead role.

His childhood wasn't particularly happy, and so he began writing dark-tinged humor — and was already selling the occasional joke by his mid-teens. At seventeen, he entered NYU and the City College, but was quickly expelled. He started to write scripts to shows like The Tonight Show, appeared in Candid Camera segments like when he had temp secretaries dictating a love letter, and doing Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy exaggerating his own traits. He's never stopped, though the medium, and eventually the Author Avatar, has varied. Among other traits, his character is nearly always a Sickly Neurotic Geek, and full of Jewish Complaining.


He started directing movies in 1965. Since then, he has directed 41 movies that range from Screwball Comedy to Drama. He was nominated for an Academy Award twenty-four times, including a record fifteen nominations for Best Screenplay. He has won four Academy Awards — three for Best Screenplay (Annie Hall; Hannah and Her Sisters and Midnight in Paris) and one for Best Director (Annie Hall). His Annie Hall famously beat Star Wars for the Best Picture Oscar. Allen himself is not really interested in awards; he showed up at the Oscars ceremony only once in 2002, when he encouraged producers to continue filming their movies in New York after 9/11.

Most of his comedies have a certain amount of drama, varying with his mood over time. Most of his dramas have a certain amount of comedy, but the comedy is more diluted in them.


The soundtracks of his movies tend to be jazz music and old (as in 1920s-'30s-'40s) standards, no matter when or where the film is set. He did write a musical once, Everyone Says I Love You, but the songs are all lifted directly from that era.

He's undergone psychoanalysis for 30 years. Exactly what good it's doing, no one knows, but his experience with psychiatrists has made its way into numerous works.

He's also notorious for being a heavy womanizer. He has been involved with Harlene Rosen, Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton, Stacey Nelkin, Mia Farrow — and Soon-Yi Previn, Mia's adopted daughter with former husband Andre Previn. Woody had adopted Dylan and Moses Farrow, two of Mia's adopted children but had no contact with Soon-Yi for most of her life. He engaged in an affair with Soon-Yi when she was 19, and the resulting outcry led to a bitter and public legal battle and media circus that still defines his image. During this period, he was also accused of sexually assaulting Mia Farrow's other daughter Dylan Farrow when she was seven. Dylan still maintains the accusations, while Allen denies them. His other adopted child, Moses Farrow, has since parted ways with Mia Farrow and befriended Woody with whom he was estranged during the controversy, and has supported Allen's side of the argument against Mia Farrow and Dylan Farrow, insisting that Woody is innocent. Meanwhile, Allen'snote  son with Farrow, Ronan Farrow, supports Dylan and Mia and denounces Woody. Fittingly enough, Ronan would later become famous for his journalism work uncovering sexual abuse allegations in Hollywood.

Naturally, almost every single plotline of Allen's scripts is about sex, adultery and relationships, among other interesting things.

He also plays the clarinet and has written humorous essays and short stories. (There's one about Count Dracula who finds what looks like a perfect lunch — only to find out he woke up during a solar eclipse. And the apartment is Danish modern with no shades.)

While his films from the '70s and '80s are all almost universally loved by fans, his '90s films and (especially) his output since the Turn of the Millennium have gotten far more of a mixed response from critics and audiences, with some pictures (Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine) receiving high praise and others (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Hollywood Ending, Anything Else, Melinda and Melinda) being not well thought of by most. It should be noted, however, that even the most critically-derided of his films still tend to have a few fans here and there.

A somewhat abridged list of his movies is presented here:

  • What's New Pussycat? (1965) - His first movie (although it was directed by Clive Donner). Peter O'Toole tries to be faithful to his fiancee, but he's a Chick Magnet. Peter Sellers is his psychoanalyst, who is stalking one of his patient's stalkers in a motel in France. Allen plays O'Toole's friend who has a crush on the fiancee. The film originally going to star Warren Beatty, but when Woody was hired to rewrite it, he kept building up a bit part for himself and shrinking Beatty's role so blatantly that the star quit.
  • What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) - A secret agent is sent to Sim Sim Salabim to find a lost egg salad recipe. Gag Dubbed from a Japanese James Bond knockoff. The concept was so novel at the time that he appears in an introduction to explain the concept to the audience. Interestingly, the project was originally offered to Lenny Bruce, who turned it down and recommended Allen for it instead.
  • Casino Royale (1967) - Not written or directed by Allen, but he plays Jimmy Bond, James Bond's "disappointing" nephew, who is the head of SMERSH and plans to kill all men over 4' 6" tall, so that he gets all the girls.
  • Take the Money and Run (1969) - A Mockumentary focusing on an incompetent, petty thief. Co-written by Allen. His debut as a full-fledged director.
  • Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story (1971) - A short Mockumentary satirizing Richard Nixon's politics. Made for PBS, but they were afraid of losing their government support, so it was never aired.
  • Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972) - A series of sketches providing parodic answers to such questions as "What are sex perverts?" and "What is sodomy?"
  • Sleeper (1973) - A health-food store owner (Allen) is cryonically frozen (without his consent) for 200 years only to find that the 22nd century America is a police state ruled by a nose. Yes, a nose.
  • Love and Death (1975) - An Affectionate Parody of Dostoevsky's and Tolstoy's romances. Also the start of Allen's Tom Hanks Syndrome.
  • The Front (1976) - This Martin Ritt-directed comedy-drama stars Allen as a bookie who lends his name to television screenplays written by his blacklisted friend during the anti-Communist Witch Hunt of the '50s.
  • Annie Hall (1977) - Allen's most famous movie — and, perhaps, along with Manhattan, his best (though Allen himself doesn't think much of either of them). It focuses on the difficult relationship between a comedian and the ditzy Annie Hall. In the end, they split up. Winner of four Academy Awards: Best Picture (for which it beat Star Wars), Best Director (Allen), and Best Screenplay (Allen), Best Actress ( Diane Keaton). (Allen was also nominated for Best Actor.)
  • Interiors (1978) - Three sisters find their lives spinning out of control after their parents' divorce. Allen's first straight drama and the first film he directed without starring in it. Basically Allen's first attempt at doing an Ingmar Bergman film.
  • Another Woman (1988) - A philosophy teacher (Gena Rowlands) observes the everyday of another woman (Mia Farrow) and decides to change everything bad in her own life.
  • Oedipus Wrecks (1989) - A short film (part of New York Stories) about a lawyer who makes his Large Ham Jewish Mother disappear in an illusionist act. She reappears, floating in the sky over Manhattan, and she's not happy.
  • Crisis in Six Scenes (2016) - A TV series for Amazon Studios. In the 1960s a quiet, apolitical family ends up with an unexpected guest who turns their lives upside down. Starring Allen himself, Elaine May and Miley Cyrus. Allen wrote and directed all episodes.
  • Wonder Wheel (2017) - A drama set on Coney Island in the 1950s surrounding Ginny (Kate Winslet), her mobster husband Humpty (James Belushi), lifeguard Mickey (Justin Timberlake) and Humpty's runaway daughter Carolina (Juno Temple) and their lives intertwine and unravel.
  • A Rainy Day in New York (2019 international, 2020 United States) - Two young people (Timothée Chalamet, Selena Gomez) arrive in New York for a weekend where they are met with bad weather and a series of adventures.
  • Rifkin's Festival (2020 international, TBA United States) - A couple fall in love amidst the backdrop of the annual San Sebastián Film Festival.

Tropes common to his work include:

  • The Anti-Nihilist: Several of Allen's protagonists are people who find reality to be miserable, full of suffering, and pretty much worthless. They generally seek to find something meaningful in their lives, try to escape from their reality, and/or simply try to enjoy their existence as best they can while they can. (Annie Hall, Stardust Memories, and Midnight in Paris) Allen himself expressed similar views in interviews.
  • Auteur License: From his first film as director, Take the Money and Run. His contracts stipulate that once he has agreed the basic story with the film company, he has complete creative control.
  • Bathos: Frequently used in his writings. For example: "Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage." or "The universe is merely a fleeting idea in God's mind—a pretty uncomfortable thought, particularly if you've just made a down payment on a house."
  • Big Applesauce: One of the trademarks of his works, as the vast majority of his films take place in and around New York. Averted in recent years, with every film since Melinda and Melinda (save for Whatever Works, Blue Jasmine, Irrational Man) shot in Europe, more specifically London, Rome, Barcelona and Paris. Some of his earlier films are also set in different locations. Take the Money and Run was shot in San Francisco, Love and Death takes place in Russia (but was shot in France) and Sleeper in the future. Sweet and Lowdown also takes place in a wide variety of locations.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A number of his films end this way including Annie Hall and Broadway Danny Rose. The Purple Rose of Cairo is a subversion; the last minute of the movie heavily implies that the main character will have a better life from that moment on... with Fred Astaire but others see it as horribly bleak.
  • Born Lucky: A huge theme in all his movies is that luck and chance shape how people live and act, and while people can choose and make decisions, that scope and ability to choose is also shaped by luck. In Match Point, the narrator Chris Wilton says:
    Chris Wilton: The man who said I'd rather be lucky than good, saw deeply into life.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: With the potential exception of Sweet and Lowdown, all of his films feature middle-class liberal characters who are either academics, professionals or incredibly wealthy. His movies are by no means celebrations of the same and his running theme is middle-class and liberal hypocrisy.
  • Celebrity Toons/Not Quite Starring:
    • From 1976 to 1984, he was the subject of "Inside Woody Allen", a syndicated newspaper comic strip.
    • Let's not forget his "guest appearance" in DC Comics' Showcase #71.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Sort of, while his works continued to be mostly comedies while dabbling in drama here and there, there was a point in time that fans wanted Allen to make more films like his "older, funnier" films.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: A mild case, but Allen never watches films in which he appears. He never even looks at the dailies, which means he relies completely on the editor to complete his films. It doesn't end there: he refused to look at his animated self in Antz, even stills.
  • Darker and Edgier: Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point and most of his other dramas tend to embody pretty bleak worldviews. Deconstructing Harry is an example of one of his comedies that's a bit edgier than his other work being one of the only Allen films were the characters curse with any frequency.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: All of his comedies have a masturbation joke. Always pro-masturbation, always delivered by Allen's character.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: A main theme in his life and work. A famous scene in Manhattan has him summarizing things that make his life worthwhile on tape.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Annie Hall, Play It Again Sam, Anything Else, Cafè Society and Crimes and Misdemeanors all play this trope pretty straight, though it also averts it by pointing out that there are good reasons why the guy did not get the girl.
  • Directed by Cast Member: To the point in which one can count films he's acted in that he didn't direct on one hand: Casino Royale (1967), What's New Pussycat?, The Front, Play It Again, Sam and Antz.
  • Downer Ending: The Purple Rose of Cairo, Match Point, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Cassandra's Dream and Blue Jasmine all end with this kind of ending.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: What many of the classic Woody Allen nebbish characters aspire to. It's deconstructed because some of the characters tend to be Entitled to Have You types and tend to neglect or overly idealize the women they fall into. The one time, it's played classically straight is Broadway Danny Rose.
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Most, if not all of the characters that Allen plays in his films play this trope, to the point that many Jewish nerdy stereotypes used in popular culture nowadays are directly referring to him.
  • Karma Houdini: A theme in many of his films is that there's no real karma in the world. Most murders are unsolved, Police Are Useless and with a bit of luck and ruthlessness, you can get away with a number of bad stuff you can do, and if there is justice, it usually comes down to luck. In Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point, Woody Allen also suggests that such a guy can get over the guilt, forget it and move on.
  • Kavorka Man: Despite not exactly looking like a sex symbol, in his films Allen's characters manage to either get the girl or be in a relationship somehow.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: He notoriously hated Manhattan to the point that he offered to make a movie for free if it was never released. He also thinks the popularity of Annie Hall perplexing. On the other hand he defended the more unpopular, Stardust Memories as one of his favorite movies, along with Match Point. He also surprisingly defended the maligned Hollywood Ending as a film that satisfied his goals of a light comedy.
  • Mockumentary: Take the Money and Run, Zelig, and Sweet And Lowdown are all presented as documentaries.
  • Nervous Wreck: His standard character in his films; a pessimistic by nature who'll be the first to panic under pressure, and sometimes even when there's no pressure.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: A feature of most of his films - after 1972's Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask), his next film to have an original score composed for it was 2007's Cassandra's Dream.
  • Reference Overdosed: His work makes several references to literature, art, jazz, philosophy, psychology, movies...
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Allen is Enlightenment in terms of content but Romantic in terms of form:
    • His movies are quite harsh in attacking conventional values, American beliefs of good triumphing over evil and he shows romantic relationships being very messy for both men and women, humans being far more amoral than purely good or purely evil and repeatedly criticizes religion and belief in God.
    • Yet at the same time, Woody Allen's films are deliberately old-fashioned, stylistically evocative of classical Hollywood and the 60s European arthouse, constantly referring to older forms of American culture, features a great deal of classical and jazz music even in movies set in contemporary times. Allen himself notes that his depiction of New York is actually not realistic, that the particularly sophisticated urbane milieu he features in his movies derives more from 30s Hollywood movies than reality.
  • Scenery Porn: Manhattan and Midnight in Paris both start with montages showing off the cities they take place in. Woody Allen likes to work with the best cinematographers of the world: Gordon Willis, Sven Nykvist, Vilmos Zsigmond, Darius Khondji.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: His films are stuck somewhere around the middle spot. There's a lot of cynicism going on but there almost always seems to be a twinge of morality, idealism, or hope, no matter how dark the film got.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: They'd have to be to keep up with all the references to classic and European cinema and philosophers. As Movieline columnist Joe Queenan put it in his 1991 essay, "Whine, Women and Song",
    Queenan: Woody Allen, whatever his failings, does not make movies for morons. Most directors do. Of course, most directors are morons.


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